In August, I was in New York City for work. Our office is located right across the street from the World Trade Center site, and over the years, I’ve watched that area transform from a recovery site to what it’s becoming today – a poignant reflection and memorial area punctuated by a nod to the future with the construction of One World Trade Center.
It’s funny – in all the years I’ve worked for my company, I’ve never been brave enough to visit the Memorial area. As I noted last year around this time, today (and the days leading into today) make me incredibly emotional, as I am sure they do for so many of us. I knew that visiting the Memorial would drum up those exact feelings and emotions. However, in August, I found enough emotional courage to visit.
I typically stay in a hotel just on the other side of the Memorial area, and usually have views overlooking the site. This time, I decided to walk through the Memorial area to return to my hotel instead of going around it.
I am glad I did.
For me, the reflecting pools were overwhelming. Looking into the footprints of the North and South Towers is shocking. And remembering that they stood 110 stories high and were an iconic part of Manhattan’s skyline…shudder.
Save for the family leaning against one of the reflecting pool walls housing a bag of Doritos (Really, folks. There HAD to be a better option for a snacking location!), I found the space to be a beautiful memorial. It was interesting to watch others around me take it all in. Moving. So moving. For the most part, people were quiet. Running their fingers over the names. Standing and staring at the water falls. Looking up at One World Trade Center. Many posed for pictures. I took a ton of pictures, but I am not sure I could pose in pictures. It doesn’t feel right for me yet. It’s a “tourist attraction”, yes. But it doesn’t feel like one I’d gather the family around for a group shot the way I would in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World. It is wildly different, and for me, not something I need a snapshot of myself experiencing.
I don’t personally know any of the victims of those terrible events. But, like so many of us, I felt I did. They represented all of us – hardworking Americans who started that Tuesday like any other day. Innocently. Looking forward to getting through the day and running home to see loved ones. Heading into work without a single inkling about what was about to unfold. No thought that our lives – all of them – would be changed forever and forever haunted by the memory of this horrific event.
I spent time walking around each of the reflection pools, running my fingers over names, and silently wishing their loved ones peace while trying not to cry. I was so incredibly touched by the names of those bearing a token of affection – a rose, a flower, an American flag, and the names of expectant mothers featured in memoriam along side of their unborn child. Truly not forgotten. Truly loved.
At one point, a plane flew over the site. Still eerie to see, even 13 years later. I noticed I wasn’t the only one who stopped what they were doing to look up. I am pretty sure I will never feel comfortable watching planes fly over tall buildings. Forever changed.
As I continued on my walk back to my hotel, I happened upon FDNY Ten House, the home of FDNY Engine Co. 10 and Ladder Co. 10, and the FDNY Memorial Wall. The home of the first responders, who lost six of their bravest. Their station has been rebuilt, and it will forever pay tribute to the 343 brothers they lost that day.
I am glad I took the time to visit the memorial area. I was able to pay my respects to those who gave all that day. And, it was a good reminder to cherish every. single. day. Every one. Without fail.